Even Established Brands Ignore Tech Disruption at their Peril
The collapse of travel giant Thomas Cook earlier this month showed that even major players are not immune to the pressures of today’s fiercely competitive market. While failure to embrace cutting-edge tech and online channels wasn’t the sole factor in the UK-based company’s demise, it did play a pivotal role. If other travel providers are to avoid suffering a similar fate, they must leverage innovation in the sector to meet customers’ growing appetite for a streamlined experience. And it’s here that increased automation and artificial intelligence will by key.
Letting Technology Take the Decisions
New technologies are disrupting the travel market in a whole host of ways. For example, ever more travelers are now using apps to automate and accelerate routine tasks such as searching for and booking trips, as well as drawing up itineraries. To satisfy these needs, there’s a growing trend toward incorporating AI into solutions of this kind, with a slew of startups driving innovation in this space.
But do travelers really want to offload their decisions onto high-tech solutions? If the figures are anything to go by, the answer is a resounding “yes”. In its travel trends for 2020, Booking.com found that many travelers now view technology as a “trusted advisor”. A sizable 59% of respondents want tech to go beyond merely returning search results and offer them surprise options. And almost half (46%) of those polled intend to use an app to deliver one-stop support before and during their trips.
This eagerness to adopt tech is also reflected in growth projections: Technavio expects the travel technologies market to grow by USD 6.4 billion from 2019 to 2023, with technologies such as robotic process automation fueling expansion in this area.
Leveraging Innovations to Meet Customer Demand and Hone Competitive Edge
In light of these findings, travel providers are increasingly searching for new channels that deploy AI to meet rising customer demand for greater convenience, speed, plus a rich, user-friendly digital experience. The following use cases illustrate just some of the activities already under way across the various stages of the travel process.
Identifying Dream Destinations and How to Get There
Before booking their trips, travelers first have to decide where they want to go. These days, millennials increasingly select their dream destinations based on images published on social media. easyJet’s innovative Look&Book solution taps into this trend – enabling travelers to identify European locations and how best to reach them, using just a photo. Users take screenshots of Instagram pictures they find appealing and upload them in the app to find out where exactly they are, and which flights will get them there.
Flexible Planning at Your Destination
Once travelers reach their destination, there’s the question of what to do during their stay. Gone are the days, when tourists stuck rigidly to predetermined one-size-fits-all schedules. Today’s travelers want to be able to plan their activities flexibly. The Welcome app allows them to do just that: This AI-powered smart travel companion enables users to draw on the recommendations of friends and experts to create personalized real-time itineraries. What’s more, Welcome adapts these itineraries on the fly, based on the user’s likes and dislikes, as well as less predictable factors such as weather, traffic, and more.
Automating Itineraries from A to Z
For travelers looking for an end-to-end planning solution, there’s TripIt. This app provides users with a single view of all of their trips. Travelers e-mail their bookings and other reservations to a dedicated planning address, where they are added to their trip. The app then uses this information to instantly generate an easy-to-understand schedule, showing users where they should be at any particular time and helping them find their way around during their journey. What’s more, the solution automatically syncs users’ plans with their calendars and shares trip details with friends or colleagues, as required.
Charting Your Route to Automation
Whether in the consumer or business segment, an increasing number of startups will leverage AI techology to deliver innovative solutions tailored to travelers’ needs. By automating routine tasks, this tech will help travel providers run their business more efficiently, increase their agility, free up staff for value-adding tasks, and cut costs.
The benefits are clear. But before you embark on your automation journey, you should take some time to determine if this is the right approach for you. To what extent are your processes already automated? Where does it make sense to introduce or increase automation? And what precisely do you aim to achieve through initiatives in this area? Once you have answers to these high-level questions, you should be in a good position to start taking a closer look at where AI can best deliver value for your company.
If you’d like to find out more about how these technologies could help your travel business, feel free to get in touch with me.